The fact Andy Robertson is set to duel with the player widely regarded as the best to ever grace the game of football doesn’t mean the Liverpool left-back will alter his preparations.
If selected on Wednesday night, the Scot will be responsible for defending the right side of FC Barcelona’s attack – the area of the pitch a certain Lionel Messi usually lines up – during the first leg of a Champions League semi-final.
But the quality and unpredictability of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner means all 11 of Jürgen Klopp’s men need to be alert at Camp Nou, Robertson insists.
He told UEFA: “I don’t think you have to prepare any differently from any other game.
“Of course, you’re playing against a better player than you usually would… he’s the best player in the world. You can maybe watch clips, although I don’t know if that would help, mind you!
“But I think we all need to be prepared because he drifts all over the pitch. You watch him, and sometimes he’s back in the centre-half spot, picking up the ball from deep and things like that, so he’ll start on the right but I’m prepared for him not to stay out there. But I know he’ll be running at us at times, and it’s all about how we defend it.
“We need to defend in packs, but the problem is that it’s not just him. If you keep him quiet, then you’ve got [Philippe] Coutinho, who we all know well, you’ve got [Luis] Suarez and people like that who can cause you problems, so it’s not about keeping one man quiet, it’s about keeping the whole team quiet, and that’ll be the hardest thing for us.”
Just 180 minutes of football potentially separate the Reds from Madrid and, therefore, another appearance in the final of the Champions League.
Robertson and his teammates have channeled the disappointment of last season’s defeat to Real Madrid to inspire another charge in Europe’s premier club competition, along with a Premier League title challenge.
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“It’d be huge. Last year was unbelievable for us, to get to the final and to beat Roma the way that we did and everything that went along with it,” the 25-year-old said.
“We know how good a feeling it was getting to the final, how exciting the end of the season was and everything leading up to the final, and we want to be back there again.
“Of course we had the disappointment in Kiev, but we’ve used that to our advantage this season.
“A lot of teams might shy away from that and not have as good a season because of the knock-on effect, but I think we’ve done the complete opposite. That was our benchmark and we’ve taken it to a new level this season.
“Whether we end up with a trophy or not is yet to be seen, but the way our season has gone so far has been very positive.
“Getting to another final would be huge, it would be a massive honour, but we know how hard the challenge is going to be.
“Then we can think about everything else that goes along with it, because Madrid’s a lot easier to get to than Kiev!”